Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

In the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ himself intervenes to show, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets," how "all the Scriptures" points to the mystery of his person (cf. Lk. 24:27). His words make the hearts of the disciples "burn" within them, drawing them out of the darkness of sorrow and despair, and awakening in them a desire to remain with him: "Stay with us, Lord.
Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine 12

In our world, where information overload is a daily threat, compartmentalization becomes a survival strategy. We try to create a box to file the thousands of tidbits hurled at us. When we transfer this strategy to our religious life, we court great disaster. This is because it runs counter to its essential nature. Christ, upon entering into human history, moves us in two directions at once. Christ comes not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it; Christ touches the depths of Law and allows it to reach its full flower. As He looks backward, He is charting a course for the future.

Because of this, the Christian apologist finds himself in an interesting position. The Christian apologist can look backward into the Old Testament and catch flashes of the coming of Christ and the fullness of faith that implies. As the Catechism notes, "the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men" (CCC #122). One of the key ways this appears is through the use of types.

Typology is the study of the Sacred Scripture using either recurring themes or central events to see how something in the New Testament is prepared for in the Old Testament. "Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfilment of the divine plan when ‘God [will] be everything to everyone’" (CCC #130). Typology helps to frame a discussion because it allows you to show how Catholic theology and practice are simply a continuation from what came before. For example, infant baptism makes more sense when one notes that circumcision, a forerunner of the sacrament of Baptism, was performed on children only a few days old. The logic follows then that if the forerunner was considered that important then you follow the same standard with its fulfillment.

The Holy Eucharist has many of these types and foreshadows in the Old Testament as well. Let’s consider just a few of the more important ones. As an act of worship, we note in the Book of Genesis, the priest Melchizedek offers bread and wine as a blessing for Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20). This is significant because the author of the Letter to the Hebrews connects Christ’s priesthood with Melchizedek.

As a subject of religious life, we look to the manna in the desert (cf. Exodus 16:14f). This is one of my favorite because the name the people of Israel give to it. Manna literally means "what’s that". The name expresses the sheer mystery and graciousness of God in feeding His complaining flock. The manna takes on a whole new depth of meaning when Jesus claims that He is the "bread from Heaven" in John 6.

As a symbol of God’s action in history, the bread of the Passover stands out clearly (Exodus 12:1-28). It is significant for two reasons. First, the bread of the Passover is a pure bread, in that it is not made with leaven. In the ancient world, leaven was obtained from bread dough that had begun to mold. So, as the people leave the land, they are being reminded that they are leaving a corrupting influence behind. Second, when Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist, He acts within the Passover, not looking to our exodus from slavery, but our exodus from sin and death. His sacrifice was anticipated with lambs until the true Lamb came. The Passover supper was considered complete once it was eaten. Now, we eat the Lamb so that we may partake of the Sacrifice which gives us the fullness of life.

Think back on your First Holy Communion. What do you remember? I bet it’s a vivid memory. Think back on your thousandth Holy Communion. What can you tell me about it? That’s our problem as time-bound creatures. We lose our place within the grand plan that God is delicately working out. Taking a moment merely to glance over some of the ways God has prepared this great banquet from Heaven we see how God invites us to be not only observers of His great works. He wants us to dwell in their midst. Taking a moment perhaps we too can recognize the Risen Lord, as those disciples on the road to Emmaus did, in the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread.


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